#1 – Latest in League – Unbeaten seasons, Widnes, Salford and Toulouse.

Despite a valiant effort in the second half Wigan Warriors unbeaten start to the 2017 Super League season came to an end at the hands of Lee Radford’s Hull FC.

Just a week earlier Castleford’s perfect start to the season also came to a halt after Gareth O’Brien’s drop-goal saw Salford come away with the victory at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Daryl Powell said after the defeat: “People mentioned us going unbeaten for the season – well that’s put an end to that.”

Powell’s comment alongside Wigan’s defeat this past weekend got me considering the idea of an unbeaten league campaign in the world of Rugby League.

I’d almost convinced myself that Wigan would have achieved such a feat during their glory years between 1987-1995 however after some digging around I found out they hadn’t. In fact, no side has ever gone unbeaten in the top tier of British Rugby League.

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Wigan won the Challenge Cup on nine consecutive occasions but never managed an unbeaten season. (Photo: Wigan Warriors)

 

However, it has been achieved in Australia – but not since 1959. South Sydney managed to win every game (12 from 12) in their 1925 campaign while Balmain, North Sydney, East Suburbs, and St George all achieved unbeaten seasons with the East Suburbs managing it in consecutive seasons.

Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm are the only sides who still have perfect records in this year’s NRL however with the quality of the competition, the effect of the State of Origin games, and the golden-point rule it is extremely unlikely a side will ever remain unbeaten for a whole season again.

Hull KR still have a perfect record in the Championship this season with seven wins from seven and if they were to manage an unbeaten season they would match the achievement of their cross-city rivals Hull FC who won the second division in 1978-79 without a loss.

However, KR will have to compete in the qualifiers at the end of the season which means facing four Super League sides reducing the chance of an unbeaten campaign dramatically. Also, going unbeaten in the Championship is no easy task ask the Leigh Centurions who suffered one regular season defeat in each of their last three seasons – Doncaster (2014), London (2015) & Batley (2016).

Toulouse Olympique came close to an unbeaten last year in the Championship One however a defeat to Rochdale Hornets in the play-offs ended their run and emphasised the difficulty of an unbeaten season.

Dewsbury Rams managed to go through the 2009 season in the third-tier without a loss and it looks like it could be in the Championship One where we see an unbeaten season in 2017 with newbies Toronto Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack have already overcome to of the stronger sides in Whitehaven and Keighley as well as knocking Championship side London Broncos out of the Challenge Cup. Toronto could very well go unbeaten this season and it seems more likely that the Canadians will achieve the feat rather than KR.

As mentioned, Salford were the side who ended Castleford’s early season winning streak and they followed that up with a clinical destruction of Widnes at the Select Security Stadium on Friday night.

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Salford destroyed Widnes this past weekend in the Super League. (Photo: Daily Star)

 

A one-sided affair was an indication of the difference in recruitment and club management between two sides who I view as very similar in Salford and Widnes. Both are stereotypically lower-mid Super League sides who competed in the middle-eights last year – with Salford surviving by the skin of their teeth thanks to Gareth O’Brien’s unforgettable drop-goal against Hull KR.

However, Salford have recruited well in pre-season and have put faith in head coach Ian Watson and it is already proving a good decision with the likes of Ben Murdoch-Masila, Lama Tasi, Junior Sa’u and coach Watson all signing new contracts this week.

As for Widnes, it seemed that they thought signing several players to long-term deals following their fantastic start last season would see them through however poor recruitment in pre-season has singled them out as possibly the weakest side in the Super League. Tom Olbison and Tom Armstrong were their only additions over the winter and Dennis Betts failed to replace half-back Kevin Brown which was proved detrimental to the start of their season.

I personally believe Salford have finally got it right with their recruitment and management off the field after years of trying but failing to climb the table but for Widnes it could be a long season with the threat of relegation possible.

I’d like to finish my first ‘Latest in League’ piece talking about Toulouse Olympique who I had the pleasure of watching for the first time this weekend as they defeated Featherstone Rovers at the Big Fellas Stadium.

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Toulouse celebrate their promotion last year. (Photo: Ladepeche.fr)

 

Toulouse returned to British Rugby League at the beginning of last season and earned promotion from League One after winning the league leaders shield before victories over York and Barrow in the play-offs.

Sylvain Houles’ forwards were extremely impressive with the likes of Sebastien Planas, Andrew Bentley, Clement Boyer, and Tyla Hepi causing the Rovers defence all sorts of issues and consistently getting their nose through the defensive line. Olympique’s offload game saw them blitz Featherstone in the early stages going 16-0 up in as many minutes.

In Mark Kheirallah they have an extremely talented full-back, clever halves with Stanislas Robin and Johnathan Ford and the powerhouse winger that is Kuni Minga.

Toulouse, I feel, can fight for promotion in the coming seasons and it will be extremely interesting to see a Super League with two French sides and how that could develop in the future.

Toronto Wolfpack’s Debut and the Globalisation of the Rugby League Challenge Cup

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The Challenge Cup – the most historic competition in Rugby League.

 

This weekend will see Canadian-based side Toronto Wolfpack, who are already the first ever trans-Atlantic professional sports team, also become the first to compete in the Rugby League Challenge Cup.

With Paul Rowley and Brian Noble in the Wolfpack’s coaching staff along with the additions of numerous players with Super League experience Toronto head into their first competitive game against National Conference side Siddal surrounded by hype, but also expectation.

However, despite being the first trans-Atlantic side to compete in the Challenge Cup they aren’t the first non-English side to enter the competition with over a dozen foreign sides trying their hand in the historic competition over the years.

In 2007 Catalans Dragons became the first non-English side to reach the Challenge Cup final when they were defeated 30-8 by St Helens. Incidentally, this was also the first cup final to be played at the new Wembley Stadium.

Catalans had already begun to break down the barriers for sides in countries without a prominent Rugby League history and their 2007 Challenge Cup run was the beginning of an ever-growing trend of globalisation in Rugby League.

But, the Dragons weren’t the first French side to ply their trade in the Challenge Cup.

2001 saw the Villeneuve Leopards progress to the quarter-finals of the competition knocking out established English side Rochdale Hornets in the process. Unfortunately, a 32-0 defeat at the hands of Warrington at Wilderspool ended any hopes of cup heroics.

Four years later and clubs from across the Channel were again making an impact with three sides in the competition – Pia XIII, UTC and Toulouse Olympique. Pia and UTC both reached the last sixteen before defeats to Leeds and Wigan meaning it was left to the latter to make history.

Toulouse overcame Wath Brow Hornets, Doncaster and Widnes on their way to a semi-final clash with Leeds. A 56-18 defeat prevented them making the final but they became the most successful foreign side the competition had ever seen – until Catalans’ 2007 exploits.

Following Toulouse’s remarkable run there was a small influx of non-English sides to the tournament.

Again, Pia XIII, Toulouse, Limoux Grizzlies and Catalans represented France but Celtic Crusaders’ introduction to British Rugby League made room for Welsh representation. The Crusaders first Challenge Cup game also came against foreign opposition as they hosted Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Russian duo Lokomotiv Moscow and Kazan Arrows debuted in the competition in 2001 but Moscow’s fixture against the Crusaders was the first all non-English tie in the Challenge Cup. The Crusaders came out on top in comfortable fashion and Leigh dispatched of the Arrows with an 80-0 victory.

A Russian side hasn’t featured in the competition since 2009 when Lokomotiv Moscow suffered an 82-6 defeat to Leigh.

Celtic Crusaders (now North Wales Crusaders) have continued to compete in the Challenge Cup since their debut back in 2006 but have only managed a 5th round appearance in 2010. Other welsh teams such as the Valley Cougars, Bonymaen Broncos and semi-professional side South Wales Ironmen (formerly known as South Wales Scorpions) have all entered.                      

Over the past four seasons the Aberdeen Warriors have represented Scotland in the Challenge Cup but are yet to earn a victory with defeats to Pilkington Recs, Skirlaugh and Northumbria University. Another defeat to Pilkington Recs saw them exit this year’s competition in the first round.

Mixed results for non-English sides over the years means it is difficult to completely welcome the idea of a more global competition.

Toulouse and Catalans’ cup runs encourage the idea of a wider competition but heavy defeats Russian, Welsh and Scottish sides would indicate the rest of the world aren’t quite ready to challenge consistently at the top level.

With discussions regarding the World Club Series taking centre stage again in recent weeks it’s important to remember Australia don’t have a knockout competition like the Challenge Cup.

Could Australian sides enter the Challenge Cup instead of the World Club Series? Possibly a far-fetched idea but the possibilities for the competition are endless if the world of Rugby League allows it room to grow.

Whatever the arguments for, or against, more non-English sides entering the competition one thing is for certain and that is that this weekend, no matter the result, Toronto Wolfpack will make history.

Huddersfield Giants 16-28 Wakefield Trinity – Match Report

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Ben Jones-Bishop scores for Wakefield

 

Wakefield fans could be forgiven for forgetting Trinity’s success’ in the Challenge Cup in the 1960’s after just one semi-final in 37 years however their 16-28 victory over Huddersfield means they will once again compete in the final four of the prestigious tournament.

New arrival David Fifita was the star-man for Trinity scoring a double which could have been a hat-trick had the ball not hit referee Gareth Hewer.

Wingers Ben Jones-Bishop and Tom Johnstone scored either side of half time with Johnstone again demonstrating his blistering pace with a breakaway interception try. Liam Finn sunk three conversions and three penalty goals to help keep Chris Chester’s side in control throughout.

Huddersfield would have been thinking their season couldn’t get any more difficult however the death of academy player Ronan Costello, Paul Anderson’s dismissal and an exit from the Challenge Cup to the hands of Wakefield have led to the lowest point of the Giants season thus far.

Scott Grix, Jake Connor and Jermaine McGillvary all crossed for the home side but they never really came close to Wakefield throughout and a ten minute spell without influential playmaker Danny Brough in the first half after a high shot on Reece Lyne didn’t help the Giants cause.

After receiving a sin-bin on his Wakefield debut last weekend versus Leeds Fifita made his second game more memorable inside the first two minutes. Following Ukuma Ta’ai’s knock-on from the kick-off the Wildcats took the lead when their new man spun through the defenders and over the line.

The Wildcats maintained their quick start with Johnstone coming close but failing to collect Jacob Miller’s chip over-the-top on a free play but Finn did extend the visitors lead with a penalty goal.

Lyne was next to trouble the Giants line breaking from deep and regaining his feet following an ankle tap but the centre was then hit with a high tackle by Brough which saw the Giants half-back sent to the sin-bin.

Wakefield soon utilised their man advantage creating an overlap which allowed Jones-Bishop to dive and plant the ball down in the corner despite the best efforts of Connor. Finn failed to convert but did add a second penalty goal shortly after a long-range Fifita break.

Trinity were on the ascendency in the first twenty minutes but the Giants begun to control the game in the latter stages of the first half. McGillvary managed to dislodge the ball in collision with Matty Ashurst and Grix was quickest to react racing fifty metres to score even with Tom Johnstone coming close to holding the Giants full-back up.

The re-introduction of Brough added even more incentive to the Huddersfield attack and it was Brough’s clever offload that gave Connor the opportunity to level the scores between himself and Jones-Bishop by diving over in the corner. Huddersfield forced three goal line dropouts and Connor was denied by video referee Ben Thaler in the final minute of the half meaning they couldn’t narrow the deficit further.

Wakefield matched their lightning start to the game in the second half when Johnstone snatched Grix’s looping pass from the air and sprinted eighty metres, leaving Michael Lawrence behind, to extend the visitors lead. Fifita was denied a second try shortly after when Miller’s kick deflected off referee Hewer under the Giants posts.

However Fifita, who had failed to score in three NRL seasons, notched a second try just a few moments later when he hit Finn’s inside ball at pace and powered his way over Grix. Huddersfield responded immediately though with some quick hands through the backs which eventually found McGillvary who scored with ease.

Finn sunk another penalty goal with just under fifteen minutes remaining which confirmed Wakefield’s spot in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup. McGillvary managed to get over for a second try in the dying stages but couldn’t prevent Huddersfield’s departure from the 2016 Challenge Cup.

Giants: Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Connor; Brough, Ellis; Crabtree, Hinchcliffe, Rapira, Symonds, Ta’ai, Lawrence.

Interchanges: Murphy, Wood, Johnson, Mason.

Wildcats: Jowitt, Johnstone, Lyne, Tupou, Jones-Bishop; Miller, Finn; Fifita, Moore, England, Molloy, Ashurst, Sio.

Interchanges: Arona, Anderson, Annakin, Walton.

Referee: Gareth Hewer. Touch Judges: C. Kendall & M. Woodhead.

Sheffield Eagles 32-28 Swinton Lions

The Sheffield Eagles progressed to the 5th round of the Challenge Cup even though they trailed for large periods against Swinton.

Cory Aston scored a late eight-point try as he was fouled in the act of scoring, Dave Hewitt’s two successful conversions which followed proved to be the difference. Swinton had raced into a 0-18 lead in as many minutes with tries from Stuart Littler, Macauley Hallett and Mike Morrison.

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Straugheir pushing for the line

 

Tries from Duane Straugheir and Menzie Yere before the interval closed the gap. Ben Blackmore grabbed a second half brace before being sin-binned for fighting. Straugheir also scored a second before Aston’s late try pulled the Eagles level and gave them the chance to win the game.

The game was Mark Aston’s 500th in charge of the Sheffield Eagles and he gave appearances to Ryan Millar and Jack Blagbrough for the first time this season. Hewitt returned after missing the game with Whitehaven last weekend. Rhys Jacks and George Tyson missed out with Blackmore moving to centre.

John Duffy made several changes to his side as Liam Hyde came in at full-back with Chris Atkin moving to scrum-half in place of Matty Beharrell who missed out. Vila Halafihi and Liam Marshall dropped out whilst Greg Scott and Stephen Nash returned.

Sheffield continued their trend of starting games slowly and Swinton wasted no time punishing them. Quick hands out wide found Littler who fended off the Sheffield defenders and broke from thirty metres and raced to the line to open the scoring.

The visitors doubled their lead just minutes down the opposite flank this time. Centre Hallett was the scorer as he fought through incoming Eagles defenders and managed to plant the ball down in the corner. Morrison would follow this up to extend the Lions’ lead further QLT failed to knock the ball out of the in-goal area and the prop-forward pounced on the loose ball.

However Straugheir managed to power his way over from close range for Sheffield on the back of a repeat set to get the Eagles on the board. The hosts continued to close the gap when Yere collected the ball on the left hand side before powering over the top of Littler putting Sheffield within eight points of Swinton going into the break.

The sides exchanged tries in the early stages of a back and forth second half. Hallett was first to cross as he shrugged off two Eagles defenders near the line however it was soon cancelled out by opposition number Blackmore who took advantage of a looping pass from Aston.

QLT was the provider for the next Eagles try as his offload found Straugheir who crashed over for his second of the game again from close range. Swinton soon regained their six-point lead though as Hallett picked up QLT’s play-the-ball before anyone took the role of hooker this allowed the centre to go through for his hat-trick under the sticks. With twelve minutes remaining the Eagles got themselves back in touching distance when Blackmore scored his second out wide.

The comeback was complete with eight minutes left on the clock as a high bomb wasn’t fielded by Swinton, Hewitt reacted quickest before offloading to fellow half-back Aston who scored to tie the game. However the Eagles were awarded an eight-point try as Aston was fouled in the act of scoring which meant Hewitt had two kicks. He converted the original one before also slotting home an extra two from in front of the posts to give the home side a four-point lead.

In the closing minutes the game boiled over and Sheffield centre and try-scorer was sent to the bin for punching but the Eagles saw out the final moments with twelve men.

Sheffield Eagles: QLT, Millar, Yere, Blackmore, Worrincy; Hewitt, Aston; Thorpe, Carlile, Stringer, Knowles, Straugheir, Minchella.

Interchanges: Fozard, Mexico, Neal, Blagbrough.

Swinton Lions: Hyde, Robinson, Littler, Hallett, Scott; White, Atkin; Morrison, Nicholson, Hand, Dwyer, Lloyd, Thornley.

Interchanges: Lever, Austin, Barlow, Nash.

Referee: T. Grant. Touch Judges: J. Jones & M. Mannifield. Attendance: 410.

Challenge Cup semi-final preview – Leeds Rhinos vs St Helens

This weekend marks the semi-final stage of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and Friday nights fixture see’s 12 time champions St Helens face off against current holders Leeds Rhinos at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Leeds won the trophy last season
Leeds won the trophy last season

Leeds have earned victories over Huddersfield and Hull FC to make this years semi-finals. Whilst opponents St Helens have defeated York City Knights and Widnes Vikings in round 4 and 5 both at Langtree Park.

The Rhinos will be without forward Stevie Ward who is out with an ankle injury however Joel Moon is returning in time for the tie after suffering a similar injury.

As for Saints they have no major injury problems and hooker James Roby is set to return to the squad, likely replacing Lewis Charnock.

Keiran Cunningham’s St Helens side come into the game in good form only losing one of their last five fixtures however this was a 46-18 defeat to Leeds Rhinos at the start of July. Narrow victories over Huddersfield and Warrington were followed up with a hefty win over Hull KR last weekend. This result meant that Saints would finish 2nd in the Super League ahead of the super eights behind their Challenge Cup opponents Leeds Rhinos.

The Yorkshiremen are also in terrific form having only suffered one defeat in their last six outings, a tight game against Wigan three weeks ago. However they have had brilliant back-to-back victories at Headingley towards the end of the regular season as they beat Catalans last weekend, this after a huge 70-6 victory over Salford a week earlier.

Both coaches made their intentions clear this week as well emphasising the prestige of the Challenge Cup and playing at Wembley to the BBC.

Cunningham said: “Everybody dreams of Wembley, anyone associated with Rugby League dreams of it.”

Whilst Leeds coach Brian McDermott said: “We have got a desire to get back to Wembley and hold on to the Challenge Cup.”

Possible line-ups

Leeds: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, Delaney, Cuthbertson.

Interchanges: Burrow, Jones-Buchanan, Singleton, Handley.

Saints: Turner, Jones, Swift, Percival, Thompson, Burns, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, Amor, Vea, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Walmsley.

Interchanges: Flanagan, Richards, Greenwood, Savelio.

Referee: Ben Thaler

With Kallum Watkins set to start in the centres there is no doubting who the danger man for the Leeds Rhinos is. Watkins has had a sensational season for the Super League table toppers and will definitely be in contention for the man of steel award come October. The England international currently sits on 13 tries whilst also assisting 9 tries and he will certainly fancy his chances against Mark Percival or Luke Thompson. In addition Tom Briscoe has been in sizzling form on the wing as of late and the Saints back line will have a difficult afternoon trying to keep the England hopeful quiet.

Leeds Rhinos also have experience on their side with prop-forward Jamie Peacock featuring in his 10th Challenge Cup semi-final while captain Kevin Sinfield can go one better as he plays in his 11th semi-final. This fixture could be the last ever Challenge Cup tie for both men. The experience continues throughout the Leeds side with the likes of Ryan Hall, Kylie Leuluai, Carl Ablett, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Rob Burrow all set to feature.

Saints do have some attacking prowess out wide as well with Tommy Makinson and Adam Swift on 13 and 12 tries respectively this season. It’s obvious that the Saints will look to get the ball out wide early on in order to capatalize on owning two of the best finishers in the game. Whilst Leeds’ have experience in the pack Saints win on sheer size with the likes of Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Kyle Amor and of course the monstrous Mose Masoe.

Roby could hold the key for Saints
Roby could hold the key for Saints

However a Saints victory definitely lies in the trio of Luke Walsh, Travis Burns and James Roby who are the catalyst behind everything that the side does. Roby has dipped in and out of form when he hasn’t been injured but if he plays well there’s no limits to what the hooker can pull off when he scoots from behind the play-the-ball. Walsh and Burns will need to combine well in order to penetrate the Leeds defence.

Last 5 meetings

  • Leeds Rhinos 46-18 St Helens – Headingley
  • St Helens 16-41 Leeds Rhinos – Langtree Park
  • Leeds Rhinos 12-13 St Helens – Headingley
  • Leeds Rhinos 32-12 St Helens – Headingley
  • St Helens 14-10 Leeds Rhinos – Langtree Park

As mentioned both sides come into the game in similar form however Leeds have the edge in the head-to-head winning three of the last four meetings between the sides. Every time Leeds have beaten Saints in their last five meetings it has been a relatively comfortable victory especially in their two meetings this season. On both occasions Leeds have hit the 40+ mark and they are the only side that Saints have failed to beat this season.

Leeds vs St Helens fixtures never fail to satisfy the audience and I can’t see this game disappointing either. Personally I see the fixture being tight throughout the majority of the game but Leeds’ experience will come into play late on and see them put some points on the board late on. Also I feel Saints may head into the game with fears of suffering a third hammering of the season to the Rhinos.

Prediction: Leeds Rhinos 36-12 St Helens

RFL: Are they costing amateur teams?

Earlier this week it was announced that Leigh Miners fourth round Challenge Cup tie against League One opponents Oxford would be moved from their home of Twist Lane to the Leigh Sports Village, home of local professional side Leigh Centurions.

The decision was made after Oxford raised concerns about Twist Lane hosting the game, complaints the RFL agreed with. There have been similar circumstances with Featherstone Lions and Normanton Knights who were drawn at ‘home’ however will now play their fixtures at the Big Fellas Stadium (Featherstone) and Rapid Solicitors Stadium (Wakefield), respectively.

It has not been made clear what these complaints are however it is hard to see what they could be. Twist Lane has a good tidy pitch as well as having a fantastic club and bar and would have no problem hosting a larger crowd than usual.

A game being played at Twist Lane
A game being played at Twist Lane

This move has led to a very frosty reception from both Leigh Miners and the amateur Rugby League community as a whole. Both see no reason as to why the fixture cannot be played at the Miners actual home ground. This is something that has become more and more common over recent times with Challenge Cup games often being moved to local professional team venues. In recent years Blackbrook, Milford and Hull Dockers have all been forced to move their games. In 2013 West Hull played a home tie at Wilderspool in Warrington! It looks as if the RFL want to take away ‘home advantage’ for the amateur sides in favour of their established clubs, if you can count Oxford as ‘established’.

Leigh Miners now have to pay £3000 to host the game at the LSV on Sunday. This has led to the formation of the 100 club by Leigh Miners which has seen locals and local business’ chip in to help them reach this target (A true insight into the Rugby League community). Twitter has been the source of backlash were many locals and Rugby League fans are disgruntled and disappointed with the RFL’s choice.

Surely with decisions like this the RFL has to look at themselves and wonder what has made them make such a poor judgement. By moving the game to the LSV it takes away a huge opportunity for Leigh Miners to bring in some revenue and in the long run improve facilities such as their home, the original issue here. Instead they now have to fork out £3000 in order to play in a competition which is meant to the be the most prestigious domestic trophy in Rugby League. £3000 to play a ‘home’ game against a semi-pro side which for any National Conference club is a big opportunity.

It was only last season when Wigan St Patricks came up against Leigh Centurions in the third round at the LSV. After the game St Pats reported they made just a grand total sum of £68 from their participation in the third round of the Challenge Cup. This led one of the most famous amateur clubs around to not participate in the competition for the first time in years. Yet it seems the RFL never batted an eyelid.

The LSV will now host the game
The LSV will now host the game

If there’s one thing I really hate doing it’s comparing Rugby League to Football however in this scenario surely we have to look at our sporting counterpart for inspiration. The FA Cup, the oldest and most famous domestic Football trophy in the world, and is it a wonder why. The competition invites teams from all over England, amateur and professional, to compete against one another and if a somewhat lesser amateur club is drawn at home, they play at home. For example in this years first round Warrington Town, from the eighth tier, hosted Exeter City in a huge televised game which brought substantial finance and time in the public eye to the club. Surprisingly Warrington also won which I’m sure playing at home in front of a large boisterous crowd helped towards.

Yes, while the gulf in class between amateur and professional may be less in Football than Rugby League surely the premise is the same.

Whilst the amount of clubs entering the Challenge Cup has remained steady with issues like this arising every year and the competition offering no financial or social benefits to amateur clubs it seems only a matter of time until we see more and more go the way of St Pats. And can you blame them?

It really is saddening to see the RFL go to these lengths just to keep there semi-pro and professional sides happy and neglecting the amateur sides – the sides who really keep British Rugby League going. The sides who produce the next stars, who give people Rugby to watch on a Saturday afternoon, and who bring communities and towns together.

While this decision is now, seemingly, set in stone I, for one, certainly hope the RFL look at how they have gone about this decision and rectify it in future years by allowing amateur sides to stage their ‘home’ games and allow them to bring in some revenue and build for the future. As for the game itself I’m sure many in the amateur Rugby League world, myself included, would love to see Miners pull off an upset, a feat not achieved since Siddal beat Doncaster in 2010.

Challenge Cup fourth round draw confirmed

This evening the draw for the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup fourth round was made at Odsal and it has put together some exciting ties.untitled (13)

The stand-out tie of the fourth round is at the LSV as Leigh Centurions host fellow Championship promotion chasers London Broncos. The Broncos will be looking to avenge their recent league defeat at Leigh.

Whitehaven and Featherstone also face off in an all-Championship affair. Workington Town will travel to 2000 and 2003 winners Bradford Bulls. It will be the first Challenge Cup tie at Odsal with Bradford out of the top division in 41 years.

The three amateur sides left in the competition have all been drawn at home. Leigh Minters will host Oxford in a tie which the Conference Premier side will fancy their chances, the game will likely be played at the LSV.

Normanton Knights will face the Batley Bulldogs in a Yorkshire derby with the game possibly taking place at Wakefield. Featherstone Lions also have a home tie against Championship One favourites York City Knights.

Other games to keep an eye out for are Dewsbury vs Newcastle, North Wales vs Doncaster, Sheffield vs Oldham and Barrow vs Halifax.

The full draw is as follows:

  • North Wales Crusaders vs Doncaster RLFC
  • Dewsbury Rams vs Newcastle Thunder
  • Featherstone Lions vs York City Knights
  • Barrow Raiders vs Halifax RLFC
  • Bradford Bulls vs Workington Town
  • Normanton Knights vs Batley Bulldogs
  • Leigh Miners Rangers vs Oxford RLFC
  • Swinton Lions vs Rochdale Hornets
  • Sheffield Eagles vs Oldham RLFC
  • Whitehaven RLFC vs Featherstone Rovers
  • Leigh Centurions vs London Broncos
  • University of Gloucestershire All Golds vs Hunslet Hawks